Shenouda proposes dialogue with Islamists following elections

Pope Shenouda III, head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, held a meeting on Thursday with a delegation from the Anglican Church concerning a proposal to begin dialogue with Islamist groups that recently won a significant number of seats in parliamentary elections.

Shenouda and a number of senior bishops in the Orthodox Church met with the delegation, which was led by the head of the Anglican Communion, Safwat al-Bayaadi.

A church source told the state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA) that the participants in the meeting discussed means of holding constructive dialogue with Islamists following their triumph in the elections. The participants agreed to respect the people's choice in Egypt’s first democratic elections, irrespective of the results.

The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafi-oriented Nour Party have so far won the majority of seats in ongoing parliamentary elections that began on 28 November.

According to the source, the participants said that many Salafis and members of the Muslim Brotherhood had made positive statements in relation to the Coptic community, stressing the value of citizenship. They disavowed statements by some Islamists that were viewed by the Coptic community as offensive, adding that it was in light of such statements that Egypt would benefit from dialogue between the Christians and moderate Islamists.

The church source noted that, as of yet, the Christian denominations in Egypt have not agreed on a unified stance, and that they are waiting to see the final outcome of elections.

Coptic activists attacked Shenouda’s invitation to Brotherhood and Nour Party leaders to attend Christmas mass.

The state-owned Rose Al-Youssef newspaper attributed the Coptic activists’ anger to a number of extremist statements made by some Islamists, in particular some Salafis, against the Copts.

In a press statement on Saturday, Brotherhood leader Hussein Mohamed said there were “many things in common between Muslims and Christians in history, the nation and the future that must be preserved.”

He went on to say, “Anyone attempting to cause division or provoke discord and sedition must be stopped. Copts in Egypt… are fully-fledged Egyptians with the same rights as us."

Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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